Effect of political turmoil on copyright?

I have been asked a few times what the impact on copyright is of the current political turmoil. The general feeling is that even before the current situation, the economic crisis would already have pushed issues like copyright to the back burner of any party. It has been stated by much better political observers than I am that, even while mentioned in the recent throne speech and in the Conservative party platform, that copyright won't show up any time soon.

It is very hard for me to not comment on the turmoil itself. When the Conservative party decided to use the economic update as a toy to test the resolve of a weak Liberal party with a lame-duck leader, they gave up the right to govern the country in a time of crisis.

While I realize that partisan Conservatives feel differently, I am of the opinion that best thing to restore government stability in this time of crisis is to allow the coalition to govern.

A coalition is not something all that new or surprising, and anyone who thinks it is un-Canadian or that we should return to the polls should take a refresher high-school civics class. We live in Canada, and it is embarrassing how many people have been buying into the false statements about our democratic system being made by Conservative partisans. It shouldn't matter what political party you personally support, you should still be aware of how our representative parliamentary system works.

Harper's desire to prorogue and not let the house sit until January will only delay the inevitable, and cause greater political and economic instability. In his speech last night he gave no indication of acknowledging the mistake he made. He was not apologetic of using an economic update as a political toy at a time of economic crisis, but instead falsely claimed that he was protecting the interests of Canada rather than admitting he was only protecting his personal political future.

One interesting possibility is that Charlie Angus could become one of the 6 NDP MPs that would be in cabinet if the coalition government is formed. Think about the forward-looking possibilities if the MP who best understands the needs of creators in new media were to become the Heritage Minister?

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You're not the only one

Laura Murray mentioned the same thought on her blog, and she in turn points to a McLeans blogger.

Frustrated by copyright – a global issue...

...surely, the current (global) economic crisis is the priority number one in most countries. I am not too versed in how heavy the debate on copyright laws weigh on the current financial troubles on Canada (or the world even), but I am aware that copyright is supposed to keep the balance between creator and consumer; and in this debate, law suits have proven many times how much money is involved in such debates. So I can image that copyright laws should matter at some point.
And when these will be discussed, we (as consumers, and potential creators) should be very attentive as Michael Geist has been when creating the facebook group for a fair copyright. Well, I am not Canadian, but I have been studying in Montreal for the past two years, and the more I learned about copyright at my school, the more I hesitated or even refrained from using any cultural artefacts, which do have a copyright to them, in the class room (copies of pictures or movie fragments for presentations especially). I am certainly in favour to protect the intellectual property of one’s work, but we should definitely consider the remark of Prof. Larry Lessig: he points out the significance of how the internet allows a new literacy to evolve. And he makes a good final point in his TED talk “Larry Lessig: How creativity is being strangled by the law” which I would hate to spoil for the ones of you who haven’t seen it yet. Essentially, I agree with Prof. Siva Vaidhyanathan that we should refrain from very thick copyright laws and tend more towards a POLICY for copyright, if somehow manageable.
And one last thing which I cannot comprehend: How can there be such a thing as a levy on CD-Rs (as in Canada). Doesn’t that induce the infringing of copyrights? Or more radically, this legalizes infringements! Isn’t that somewhat paradoxical?!
Tom
PS: here is the link to the TED talk by Prof. Lessig:
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html

Connections not politically correct...

I believe there is a strong tie between the economic crisis and the policies and politics behind intellectual property. I believe we are in an economic transition that is as great as the transition into the industrial economy, and as volatile. I don't know how unexpected the current downturn was, and I was predicting something much worse (which didn't really happen) in 2001.

We as a society have very different ideas of what our future economy will look like: those who blindly want "stronger" exclusive rights are looking backwards to the industrial economy and thinking that knowledge is a new product for that old economy, rather than the infrastructure upon which the real economy is built.

See: Key question about the shape of the knowledge economy.

Unfortunately this conversation is not really politically correct at the moment. Many people blindly believe that bailing out the old economy is necessary as a stimulus forward. For example, the bailout of the automobile sector will impact the future only as a form of debt on our children as I do not believe there will be any long-term benefits.

In my mind, the North American Auto sector is the last sector that should be bailed out. In fact, even separate from the current downturn, due to choices they made in the past (Who Killed the Electric Car?, General Motors cheating cities out of their streetcar systems, etc) I have been cheering for their downfall (especially GM). Large government involvement in retraining employees toward full participation in alternative jobs sounds like a far more useful place to invest our public money.

There are many things that governments could do. Major infrastructure projects to put in communications infrastructure would be my first choice. This would involve splitting communications up the way that we split up electricity in Ontario: the free market competative private sector doing "generation" (AKA: value-add services such as video streaming, voice interconnections, Internet transit, etc), with the public sector doing "distribution" (Fiber to the home).

Our current antiquated system of monopolistic anti-free-market telecommunications and "broadcast undertaking" is holding Canada back from being major players in the knowledge economy. While I believe it is clear where we should be going, instead we hear about adding transactional friction to knowledge exchange (IE: "stronger" and more complex "Intellectual property" laws and practise) as well as cross-sectoral subsidies (IE: levies against communications infrastructure to subsidize legacy content creators, and other things which should be handled in different ways).

I think there are many things we could talk about, but I don't hold a lot of hope out for our government (regardless of which parliamentarians form that government, or what party banners they were elected under) taking a positive direction. Things are going to get much worse before they get better, and I won't be surprised when legacy old-economy publishers (non-creator copyright holders) get a bailout both in the form of direct subsidies as well as IP transactional friction.


Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.